Jan 31, 2012

Gambling Insanity

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Political Chicanery and Cowardice
By: Chuck Colson | Published: January 31, 2012


A well-known expression attributed to Albert Einstein defines insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Well, if that’s insanity, then most state officials are quite insane when it comes to gambling: for more than two decades, they have looked to casinos, lotteries, slot machines, and video poker as a way out of their budgetary woes.

In virtually every instance, actual revenues fell far short of expectations: There was no pot at the end of gambling rainbow. Whatever added revenue was gained came at the expense of social problems associated with gambling.

At this point, a sane person might conclude that it really wasn’t worth the trouble. But state officials seem intent on proving Einstein right.

Case in point: a recent New York Times story about states possibly legalizing online gambling. Specifically, the goal is to get a cut from the online poker industry. The thinking is that just as the states took the various numbers rackets and turned them into state-run lotteries, the states could do the same with online poker.

The states would sell licenses to websites and tax the game operators’ earnings. And thanks to a favorable ruling from the Obama Justice Department just before Christmas, states now have the green light to proceed.

As Einstein might have predicted, the case for government-licensed online poker is drearily familiar: industry trade groups are predicting billions in additional tax revenues, an enticement state legislators find hard to resist. As a California legislator put it, “Two hundred and fifty million dollars buys you a lot of teachers.”

Ah, the old “we’re doing it for the children” gambit. The same gambit was employed in Florida in support of casino gambling. It didn’t turn out that way. Casino money didn’t “fix education” as politicians promised. In fact, the state wound up spending less money on education after legalizing casino gambling than it did before.

Folks look, this whole thing is a political shell game.

Licensing and taxing gambling is an easy out for every lilly-livered politician who refuses to make tough political and budgetary decisions. And it perpetuates the illusion that you can get something for nothing.

Since support for state-sponsored gambling is a way to avoid hard truths, you are unlikely to hear this. Likewise, you are unlikely to hear that lottery revenues are the most regressive of taxes, since the poor spend a larger proportion of their income on gambling. You also won’t hear about the social and personal costs associated with gambling, including crime, family breakdown, and on and on — up to $10,000 a year for each compulsive gambler.

So let’s be honest: As Alan Mallach of the Brookings Institution put it, “every dollar dropped into a slot machine is a dollar not spent on something else.” It’s taking money away from things like groceries and child support.

None of these arguments are new: state-sponsored gambling has always been a sucker's bet, which makes the newest rush to expand it, well, insanity.

 
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Jan 26, 2012

Fleeting Sovereignty

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Politics won’t get us all the way to the Kingdom of God.
Fleeting is the sovereignty/of the wretched world in which we are;/the King who rules over the angels/is the Lord of every land.

- Oengus mac Oengobann, Feilire Oengusso (Irish, 9th century)


The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will. - Proverbs 21:1

The political season has begun in earnest. Three Republican primaries are behind us, the President’s media campaign is officially underway, and political posturing is the lead story on every news broadcast.

Frankly, I’m already pretty tired of it already.

Much is at stake this time around, however; that seems clear. Whether the country will continue on its present course of becoming an entitlement state, populated largely by serfs and landowners, or whether we will begin to find our way back to the free and independent republic our Founders envisioned – this question may not be finally determined by the outcome of November’s elections, but they will contribute significantly to moving the nation one direction or the other.

Christians need to approach this election from a Kingdom perspective. Our calling is to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33). That’s not a mandate directed at some niche in our lives, but at the whole of our lives, including our political obligations. Seeking the Kingdom in the realm of politics means that we will need to discover which candidate’s views are most conducive to the increase of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit, which is the Kingdom of God (Rom. 14:17, 18).

Discerning that will take some serious study and constant monitoring on our parts. Granted, any administration only has, at most, eight years to accomplish its agenda. Political power in America is a fleeting sovereignty, and even that is hedged about by checks and balances to keep parties and presidents at least somewhat restrained.

Still, political power can be wielded in ways that either expedite or impede the progress of Christ’s Kingdom. The question of marriage and how we shall view it in the generations to come is but one example of an area where God’s purposes will either be advanced or scorned. The same is true for other areas of public policy: immigration, the role of government in private life, ensuring the nation’s health, preserving the freedom of speech amid the rising concern about “hate speech,” and so forth. All of these issues, and more, intersect and overlap with God’s agenda for justice, righteousness, and shalom – the concerns of His Kingdom.

But do we even know what the Kingdom questions are? Do we know how to frame them, and how to overlay them onto the political verbiage and platforms which are now taking shape? And are we able to determine which candidates best represent an agenda that turns nicely in the Lord’s hands?

If we haven’t begun looking into such matters yet, now’s the time to get busy.

Believers must seek the Kingdom in their political choices as in everything else. Contrary to what many believe today, everything in this country is not politics; rather, everything is spiritual warfare. You can’t win a spiritual war in the voting booth, but you will have to fight its battles there.

Politics is an unavoidable battlefield and staging-ground for fighting the good fight of faith, and it is possible to make Kingdom gains by rendering to Caesar what we owe him as “we the people.”

So let’s look to the Lord, study diligently, listen carefully, and engage the political process with a view to advancing the Kingdom agenda of our sovereign King.

Politics won’t get us all the way to the Kingdom of God. However, we won’t get very far along the way there unless we participate wisely and winsomely in this and every other political season.


Next steps
Make a list of the issues you believe are most important for the upcoming political campaigns. Make a first pass at summarizing how, from a Kingdom perspective, a believer ought to view such matters. Then invite some friends over for coffee and share the results of this exercise. Invite their response. Challenge them to join you in studying and attending to these matters carefully over the coming months. Agree to do some reading and study, to meet together, and to use every opportunity available to you to influence political decision-making in the direction of the Kingdom of God.

 
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Jan 25, 2012

Superintendent bullies Christian student

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School officials at Shawano High School in Wisconsin have censored and punished Brandon Wegner, a 15-year-old, for writing an op-ed article explaining the Biblical view of homosexuality and supporting natural mother-father adoption, according to Liberty Counsel.
After Brandon wrote this article he was pulled into hours of meetings with school administrators and staff, without his parents' knowledge.

Superintendent Todd Carlson
Superintendent Todd Carlson told him that the column "went against the bullying policy," and asked him if he "regretted" writing it. According to Liberty Counsel, when Mr. Wegner stated that he did not regret writing it, and that he stood behind his beliefs, Superintendent Carlson told him that he had "to be one of the most ignorant kids to try to argue with him about this topic," that "we have the power to suspend you if we want to" and that the column had "personally offended me, so I know you offended other people!"

Brandon's opinion was a part of an editorial page which presented viewpoints both for and against homosexual adoption, each articulated by a student. After the school newspaper was published in the local town paper, a homosexual in the community complained to the school. School officials then censored Brandon's article, forcing him and his classmates to pull the page out of the newspaper before distribution at the school.

Mathew Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, said "The bullying at Shawano High School is by Superintendent Todd Carlson and the school officials, not the student, Brandon Wegner. The school officials have displayed blatant intolerance of a view on homosexuality held by many people. The school's actions are shocking and unjustified. The superintendent should immediately apologize and stop the bullying."

TAKE ACTION
Send an email to Shawano Superintendent Todd Carlson. Urge him to immediately apologize for his unconstitutional and irrational censorship and humiliation of student Brandon Wegner.

Ask Mr. Carlson to publicly acknowledge that, in the future, all students will be allowed to express their religious beliefs, free from bullying and harassment by school administrators, staff and other students.

 
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Jan 24, 2012

First It Was the Catholics

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Restricting Religious Freedom

 
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Jan 23, 2012

Lost Episode for January 23

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In a letter to fellow Founding Father John Adams on January 23, 1807, Benjamin Rush wrote:
“By renouncing the Bible, philosophers swing from their moorings upon all moral subjects. Our Saviour in speaking of it calls it the “Truth” in the abstract. It is the only correct map of the human heart that ever has been published. It contains a faithful representation of all its follies, vices, and crimes. All systems of religion, morals, and government not founded upon it must perish, and how consoling the thought – it will not only survive the wreck of these systems but the world itself. ‘The Gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.’ [Matthew 16:18]*
Founder Benjamin Rush’s belief that the Bible is an essential foundation for enduring government is a lost episode in American history.
*Source Citation: L.H. Butterfield, ed., Letters of Benjamin Rush, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1951), 2:936. Bracketed item added.

 
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Jan 20, 2012

AUL’s “Life List” Shows Huge Legislative Gains for Life in the 50 states in 2011

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By Americans United for Life
Thursday, January 19th, 2012

And AUL prepares for 39th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade Events with AUL’s
Dr. Charmaine Yoest and Abby Johnson together during the March for Life.


WASHINGTON, D.C. (01-19-12) –Americans United for Life released its seventh annual “Life List” – a ranking of all 50 states based on the way each deals with a comprehensive list of life issues – from abortion to euthanasia. For the second time in three years, Louisiana tops the list, followed closely by Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, and Arkansas.

Washington, California, Hawaii, Vermont, and Montana come in as the least life-affirming states, while Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, and Utah rate as the “most improved.” For the entire list, and a graphic model of the nation, click here.

AUL CEO and President Dr. Charmaine Yoest said that the remarkable gains for Life at the state level reveal that many state legislators are creating a blueprint for legislative changes when Roe v. Wade is ultimately overturned. 2011 was a watershed year in the defense of life. Forty-seven states considered more than 460 abortion-related measures, ultimately enacting more than 70 of them. And that is just the beginning.

Yoest noted that AUL legislative involvement was significant. During the 2011 state legislative session:

At least 86 bills were introduced in 32 states that were based in whole or in part on AUL’s model language and/or on which AUL consulted and advised.
  • AUL’s experts testified 21 times, supporting 20 pro-life bills and opposing legislation in Hawaii that would have compromised healthcare freedom of conscience.
  • AUL distributed more than 1,600 copies of our model legislation (with accompanying policy guides) to individuals in 47 states, the District of Columbia, and overseas nations.
“As the legal arm of the pro-life movement, the AUL legal team has created the legal architecture for reversing Roe v. Wade,” said Dr. Yoest. “The states are preparing for the day after Roe. And as the Life List documents, we’re seeing tremendous gains in defending life in law.”

One of the key tools for state legislators who wish to advocate for constitutionally sound and effective pro-life policies is Defending Life, AUL’s guidebook of Model Legislation. This year’s soon-to-be released guidebook will include 43 pieces of model legislation, including legislation restricting insurance coverage of abortions within state Exchanges created pursuant to the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s healthcare plan. AUL’s model legislation has already been used by five states to opt out of Obama’s healthcare law.

 
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Jan 18, 2012

Education Reform: The Larger Question

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By T. M. Moore Published Date: January 17, 2012
The schools in America are a reflection of the surrounding culture. Whatever the culture values will be reflected in the education we give our children. For example, in colonial New York, a public school teacher had to be able to lead children in worship and explain the Gospel, or he could not expect to be hired by the local school board.

In America prior to the Civil War, the education of children was purely a local matter. Schools boards abounded – one for every political precinct. Parents were responsible to oversee the work of the school board and to fund the local program of education. Naturally, the education they sanctioned reflected their values, experience, and aspirations for their children.

As the program of public education became more centralized throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, local school boards were merged and state and federal funding began flowing toward local education. The creation of teachers’ unions created a new vested interest that did not exist in earlier American education.

Between school boards, now beholden to states and federal governments, and teachers’ unions whose interest is first in their members and then in the education of children, the earlier model of local, community-based education began to be replaced by a model focused more on creating informed producers and consumers.

All over the country the process of transforming the schools was as gradual as the emerging nation’s increasing commitment to secularism and material prosperity. Hardly anyone noticed the change that was taking place in the education of our children, because the schools were merely reflecting our changing national agenda. Almost without noticing, America had gone from a nation that firmly believed in God and the values of a Christian worldview to one almost wholly consumed with getting-and-spending as the highest value in life (see James Turner’s, Without God, Without Creed).

And this is where the schools are today. To talk about reforming education, therefore, we need to think more broadly about the culture – the paideia – which supports that education. Unless the values of the culture change, the values of the schools will not. No amount of short-term tweaking the educational program of the land will have any lasting effects unless something happens to reform the larger culture.

Educational reform is thus connected with moral reform, and the moral reform we as Christians desire requires revival in the churches. In short, if we would reform our schools, we must begin by reforming ourselves, renewing our spirits before the Lord and exchanging our materialistic values for those of the Kingdom of God.

Resources for this topic

Charles Colson, “Grassroots Revival
Charles Colson, “Revival at Home
David R. Mains, “Praying Boldly
T. M. Moore, “Jonathan Edwards’ Praying Together for True Revival
T. M. Moore, “The Religion of Education
T. M. Moore, “The Tipping Point for Revival” (ViewPoint series)
T. M. Moore, “What We Seek
Jennifer Roback Morse, “There has to be a Better Way
Edward Tingley, “True Knowledge is Made Possible by True Religion
Education necessarily involves matters of ethics. A good place to begin in helping your friends and fellow Christians to get involved in changing the schools is by alerting them to the ethical crisis in the nation. Order your copy of our new DVD series, Doing the Right Thing. Here’s a resource you can share even with your non-Christian friends, to help them think about the ethical crisis which has settled on our nation, and what we can do about it.
Next steps:

  1. Is your church seeking the Lord for revival? Do the following: First, interview some of your church leaders to find out if the leadership team talks about revival, seeks it for your church, or even thinks it is necessary. Then copy some of the resources listed above and give them to some of your church leaders. Ask them to read them and then get back with them to talk further about how your church might begin seeking the Lord for revival.
  2. Show this week’s Two-minute Warning to your pastor. Does he seem to think that Christians can do anything to help improve the education of American children? Offer yourself to help in your church’s education program in any way you can.
  3. Email today’s Talking Points column to several Christian friends. Challenge them to read some of the resources, watch the Two-Minute Warning, and take on one of the activities.


A conversation starter

Here’s a conversation starter you should try with several of your Christian friends: “Everyone’s talking about education reform these days. But I don’t think we’ll ever have real, lasting education reform until we experience revival in the churches of the land. What do you think?”

 
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Jan 16, 2012

Evangelical Groups Warn of Dangers of Redefining Marriage

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by Karla DialA coalition of almost 40 faith-group leaders signed an open letter to all Americans on Thursday, warning them that everywhere marriage is redefined, religious persecution follows.Though the effort was organized by the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), it was signed by people from a broad spectrum of faith backgrounds — including Catholics, the Christian and Missionary Alliance, the Foursquare Church, Mormons, Pentecostals, Orthodox Jews, Anglicans, Lutherans, Wesleyans, Vineyard churches and Assemblies of God congregations.
The reason, said Galen Carey, the NAE’s vice president for government relations, is that marriage and religious freedom are both woven so deeply into the fabric of society that when laws are changed, everyone is affected.
“It’s a very broad-based concern,” he said. “We issued a letter last year on the protection of marriage, and in following up, we thought we should look at this important question of how changing the definition of marriage would impact basic religious freedoms. That’s something we think hasn’t been getting enough attention in the current debates.”
Though some people say the greatest threat legalized same-sex marriage and civil unions hold is forcing pastors and other faith leaders to officiate the ceremonies — or forcing churches to allow them to be held on their property — the issue is actually much deeper than that, according to the letter.
“We believe the most urgent peril is this: Forcing or pressuring both individuals and religious organizations—throughout their operations, well beyond religious ceremonies — to treat same-sex sexual conduct as the moral equivalent of marital sexual conduct,” the authors wrote. “There is no doubt that many people and groups whose moral and religious convictions forbid same-sex sexual conduct will resist the compulsion of the law, and church-state conflicts will result. … altering the civil definition of ‘marriage’ does not change one law, but hundreds, even thousands, at once.”
Carey said most people “haven’t thought through all the implications” of redefining marriage yet. But since a slew of legislation and court cases seeking to radically change the institution forever is in play this year, the need for critical thinking is urgent.
“When you change the law, you’re giving a societal stamp of approval to something we don’t believe is correct, that we actually believe is wrong. When we say so, we are branded as bigots, and the full force of societal and governmental sanctions can be brought to bear to punish us — and we don’t think that’s right.
“I think it’s important for people to start talking about this in churches,” he concluded. “As we do that, it’s important to focus the debate on the positive values — religious freedom and the family as God gave it to us. We can get sidetracked into attacking others, but our goal is not to attack anybody. It’s to uphold the values that we think will give us the foundation for God to bless our country.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Read “Open Letter on Marriage and Religious Freedom.”

 
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Jan 13, 2012

MLK and Religious Freedom

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Chuck Colson, BreakPoint | Friday, January 06, 2012
Monday, January 16 is Martin Luther King Day. Most schools recognize the day — as they should. But will they teach students about Dr. King’s Christian faith, which motivated and guided his campaign for civil rights?

During his Birmingham civil rights campaign, Dr. King required every participant to sign a pledge committing to do ten things. The first was to “mediate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.” Others included the expectation that all participants would “walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love;” and “pray daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free.”

To truly understand Martin Luther King, students must learn about his Christian faith. It was at the heart of what he did.

This year, something else worth celebrating happens to fall on the same day as Martin Luther King Day, and it’s a perfect fit. Every year since 1993, the president proclaims January 16 to be Religious Freedom Day and asks the nation to celebrate its religious liberty. It is the anniversary of the passage in 1786 of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which was drafted by Thomas Jefferson.

The men who drafted the Constitution leaned heavily on Jefferson’s statute in establishing the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom. Today, it is more important than ever that we remind ourselves of that protection.

Since Martin Luther King Day and Religious Freedom Day fall on the same day this year, it is a perfect time for schools to help students connect the dots between Martin Luther King’s fight for civil rights and the freedom of religious expression in America. Dr. King’s call for justice was guided by his religious convictions and the liberty to act on those convictions.

You’ve heard me say often on BreakPoint that religious freedom is coming under increasing assault in this country. It’s one reason I and others drafted and signed the Manhattan Declaration, which has been signed by half a million people. The Declaration specifically cites Dr. King’s magnificent “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” in which he taught that “A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God.” An unjust law, however, “is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law,” and therefore has no binding power over human conscience.

It’s vital that every church defend freedom of religion, the bulwark of all of our freedoms. Here’s something you can do right now: Tell your church leaders about the Manhattan Declaration and about Religious Freedom Day coming up on the 16th. Ask them talk to your congregation the day before — on Sunday, January 15 — about the importance of religious liberty. In fact, devote a sermon to it!
You can also help clear up some of the confusion over religious liberty in our public schools. Students can pray in school. They can read the Bible. That makes Sunday the 15th a great time for Sunday school teachers to talk to their students about the freedoms they have to express their religious faith — even at school.

Please, come to BreakPoint.org and click on this commentary. We’ll have links to great resources and information on what your church and school can do for Religious Freedom Day. You can even read the pledge that Dr. King had his followers take.

Be sure your church celebrates Religious Freedom Day — there’s no better way to honor the legacy of Dr. King.

Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media and print.

 
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Jan 12, 2012

Religious Freedom in Public Education

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Religious Freedom Sunday is a national event in which churches honor the educators within their congregations and inform their congregations about the freedom of religious expression students from kindergarten through twelfth grade have at school. In 2012, the President's proclamation of Religious Freedom DAY (Jan. 16) falls on a Monday.



To learn more and order pamphlets click here.

 
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Jan 11, 2012

Occupy the Schoolhouse

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Some school officials and teachers are failing to teach their students even basic material. The injustice of it is shocking, and something, Colson says, we must not tolerate.


 
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Jan 9, 2012

Morality and the Economy

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No Separating the Two
“Yes, [the election is] about growth and the economy, [but] it’s also about what is at the core of our country . . . faith and family. You can’t have a strong economy, you can’t have limited government if the family is breaking down and we don’t live good, moral, and decent lives.”

“In a general election…where the focus is almost certainly going to be on economic issues, it is questionable whether Santorum’s relentless focus on social issues will play well with independent voters, especially in the crucial suburbs.”


 
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Jan 5, 2012

Occupy Wall Street: Discerning Not Dismissing

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Occupation is the big new thing. The social motions and explosions are ever more frequent . While I believe it’s a misguided, unrealistic exercise overall, I want to caution myself and likeminded observers from dismissing the protesters, but for reasons that go beyond politics.
News coverage of city governments kicking hapless demonstrators out of municipal parks implies that the very oppression they so vaguely protest is being wielded against them. Meanwhile, conservatives (many Christians included) call out the movement as insular, selfish, self-defeating and pointless. One called protesters idiots. Many characterize them as rehashed hippies of the 1960s. Yet some look like average American middle-classers. It all raises some trite as well as some profound questions.

Should individual Christ-followers welcome or even join in the universal decrying of greed, corporate participation in (entanglement?) with government, perceived favoritism and lobbying? Perhaps this is a chance to join in calling for social justice. Or maybe it’s time to call out sloppy thinking and irresponsibility—or both.

That’s a judgment call for each believer. But whether we join in, give modified ascent, or critique, we’re called to biblical discernment. The Apostle Paul, wrote in Piilippians 1: 9 that he prayed that they would “grow yet more and more” in God-given super-knowledge and discriminating spiritual discernment so that they might remain pure and ultimately give God glory. Paul wanted his charges to grow up. I’m concerned that well-meaning people of biblical faith not be drawn into unthinking responses either way; that is, let’s be grown up even if we are sure the occupiers aren’t.

 
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Jan 3, 2012

Voter Guide for Republican Presidential Candidates

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The first contests in the race for the Republican nomination are just around the corner. To better inform you, we looked beyond the rhetoric to the candidates' actual records on the issues important to families.

This voter guide outlines candidate stances on issues that are important to the family. We researched the candidates' statements and votes on the ten issues that best give voters an understanding on if the candidates match your values. Please use this resource as you think about who you would like to see be the nominee to challenge President Barack Obama.

Download the free guide and be sure to share this resource with your friends and family before the 2012 primary season begins next month.
A values voter is an informed voter.
Sincerely,

Tony Perkins
President
P.S. Please forward this to your friends, family, and fellow church members.

 
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